While having an immensely bright head torch is undeniably cool, strapping six D cell batteries to your noggin isn’t. When it comes to head torches, it’s not simply a case of brightest is best. Choosing the perfect head torch means finding that sweet spot between brightness, burn time, weight and cost. There’s often a trade-off somewhere, but perhaps not if you go for the Petzl Actik Core 450L …
Here’s the lowdown:
The Petzl Actik Core 450L has three levels of brightness.
The lowest comes in at 6 lumens and is good enough for inside your tent, late night reading and being visible to others.
You’ve then got standard mode. At 100 lumens, this is for general walking at night, lighting up the road ahead and ensuring you don’t trip over things on the path.
Finally comes max power mode with a whopping 450 lumens. This is seriously bright and provides adequate illumination for faster paced activities such as trail running. It allows you to pick out features in the landscape at night, so it’s perfect for a boost to the standard mode when navigating in the dark.
The Actik Core also has a red light mode – both constant and flashing. This is designed for preserving night vision and not blinding your companions when talking to them. Nice to have but not sure it’s a feature I’ll be using.
Battery life depends on which mode you are in. The brighter you go, the quicker your juice will run out. Petzl quotes the following burn times for the different modes:
|Max burn time mode||130 hours||6 lumens|
|Standard mode||8 hours||100 lumens|
|Max power mode||2 hours||450 lumens|
8 hours in standard mode should get you through the night and be sufficient for most hillwalkers. If you need more illumination, you’ll only get a couple of hours before reaching for the candles.
Although that doesn’t sound like much, be realistic with your expectations. Unless you are doing ultra-marathons, that should get you through most of your training runs and activities which require the maximum amount of light. If you need more than that, you’ll need to compromise elsewhere.
I try not to get too hung up on gram counting but if you like stats then the official weight is 75g. In real world terms, you hardly know you are wearing it. There’s no heavy battery pack to bounce around on your bonce – often the price you pay for a really bright torch.
The Petzl feels just as light when not in use, so it’s ideal for carrying in your day pack for emergencies.
I picked one up from Cotswold Outdoor for £55. There are cheaper options in the Petzl range but the Actik is a worthwhile upgrade if you are serious about using a torch for more than just ‘around camp’.
What’s good about it?
This torch copes with just about every situation the average outdoorsy person is likely to throw at it. In max power mode, it lights up the trails well, giving you the confidence to tackle them at full speed. In standard mode, you’ll have no problem finding your way at a slower pace. And after you’ve had your fun outside, you can read late into the night under the covers with the low power mode.
It’s comfortable to wear and has some neat features, such as a reflective headband and the ability to lock the on/off button, so you won’t worry about it switching on in your rucksack.
Power comes from a rechargeable battery, which should reduce the amount of AAAs going into landfill. It takes around 3 hours to charge up from the short USB cable provided.
The torch does take standard 3x AAA batteries too, so you can always keep a set in your pack as a back-up. The rechargeable battery unit is excellent, though, and you can pick up a spare for around £25 – an inexpensive upgrade which would double the burn time of the torch. Perfect if you are taking on more extreme adventures, and it would still come in cheaper than many of its rivals.
Room for improvement?
Not really. If I’m being picky, I found the button to cycle through the different power modes annoying in that you need to select your preferred mode when you first power up. If you are in standard mode and need a boost to ‘full beam’, you have to turn the lamp off and power it up again. It’s a minor niggle which comes with the single button operation and you soon get used to being plunged into darkness!
Should I buy one?
Yes. Definitely. The Petzl Actik Core 450L is perfect if you are looking for an all-purpose head torch which won’t disappoint across multiple outdoor activities. Whether pottering around camp, navigating at night or running through the deep dark wood, the combination of different brightnesses, low weight, competitive cost and decent burn time means you’ll rarely be left wanting more.